Colin Dunlap: Hurdle Must Ride With Pedro
I like Ike – but not nearly as much as Pedro. Actually, it isn’t even close when measuring those gentlemen as baseball players.
Know why? Those two swings in Milwaukee on Saturday night.
Oh man, they were beautiful.
You know the two, the pair after which a couple of baseballs ended up in the left field seats in Miller Park.
Pedro Alvarez can give you that; Ike Davis can’t give you that — and that’s why, with 32 games left and the Pirates on the edges of the National League Central race and in the heart of the Wild Card race it’s a must manager Clint Hurdle moves forward with Alvarez as his left-handed hitting option at first base.
Hear that Clint, Pedro must become Playdro — and just about every single day.
This is something I have been advocating for well over a month, but I will settle for a better-late-than-never scenario because, well, it could very well mean the difference between the Pirates securing a Wild Card berth or the Pirates playing exactly no games in October, 2014.
Since all the way back to Spring Training, the Pirates have searched and searched (and searched more) for that left-handed bat at first base. It was Andrew Lambo who had the inside track at the job through the Grapefruit League season, but he failed miserably in games in Florida, impelling the club to make Travis Ishikawa the everyday man at that position as the team came North.
How did that go? Ishikawa couldn’t have been a nicer man. Honestly.
He also couldn’t have been a nicer man who hit .206 with a .263 on-base with one home run in 15 games with the Pirates before they figured out he wasn’t good enough to play every day.
Davis was acquired on April 18. Since then, he has grossly underwhelmed, hitting .240 with seven home runs including an 8 for 41 (.195) August so far. The guy went 13 for 71 (.183) in June.
All the while, Alvarez toiled and labored, struggled and tussled with well-documented throwing anxieties at third base and, in my opinion, took those into the batters box with him, compounding his troubles.
But, alas, a week ago today Hurdle played Alvarez at first base for the first time in his career after Alvarez had put in substantial work in batting practice and early-infield practice in the days leading up to that game at the position.
It was a new beginning for Alvarez.
It was a case of Hurdle finally getting it.
It should have been, too, a definitive statement that Davis has lost his job.
We will see what transpires the rest of the way as every game, inning and out left in the season now comes with heightened importance for these Pirates.
I know this, though — that power is intoxicating and that two opposite field shots Alvarez hit against the Brewers on Saturday night is not only something that Davis can’t give this team, it is something that few in baseball can do.
For that, Hurdle needs to ride with Alvarez at first base from here on out and cross his fingers that Pedro will be good enough on defense.
Starting tonight, the Cardinals storm into town winners of seven of the past 10 and just 1.5 games back of the Brewers in the National League Central race. More important, however, St. Louis heads to PNC Park on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and will try to ride the crest of three right-handers — John Lackey, Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright.
This is simple, isn’t it? Is for me at least.
Pedro Alvarez must play first base in these games. Or, at the very least, he must start at first base, play into the deep innings and then make way for Davis or Gaby Sanchez as a defensive substitute.
This is all so simple.
Pedro Alvarez is this team’s first baseman from here on out. He has to be.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.
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